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Hypothyroidism


Introduction

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped endocrine gland that produces hormones which determine how the body burns energy, makes proteins, and regulates temperature. The thyroid works closely with other glands, including the pituitary and adrenal glands, to regulate metabolic functions of the body.

Hypothyroidism affects over 5 million Americans, most commonly striking women between the ages 30 to 50. The thyroid gland is often affected by genetic predisposition, chronic stress, long term steroid use, low protein diet and excessive dieting. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland ceases to produce adequate thyroid hormone to meet the body's demands. 10% of all women are deficient in thyroid hormone and new statistics report 15 to 20% of women over 60 have some degree of hypothyroidism. Metabolism slows and virtually every cell in the body is affected. At its worst, this disease can completely destroy the thyroid gland. Conventional treatment for adults is a lifelong prescription of thyroid hormone, Levothyroxine (Synthroid), which may range of side effects.

Laboratory testing for hypothyroidism is not always conclusive. In many cases, an individual may present with classical hypothyroid symptoms (see common symptoms), but their labs reveal a "normal" TSH. Conventional testing is set up to monitor only the amount of thyroid produced via the TSH reading. This type of testing does not allow the determination of how much thyroid hormone is actually being used by the person's body. Therefore, there are many cases of subclinical hypothyroidism that may be diagnosed and effectively treated with a wide range of natural therapies.

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Common Symptoms

Extreme fatigue; unexplained weight gain; slow heart rate; sensitivity to temperature extremes; yellowish color on hands and feet; swollen thyroid gland (goiter); hair loss; constipation; heavy menses; dry skin and hair; poor memory; depression; and changes in personality; numbness in fingers and toes; easy bruising; brittle nails.

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Natural Treatment

To promote optimization of thyroid gland health, nutrition and lifestyle management play a significant role. A customized diet rich in thyroid supportive macronutrients is essential. Additional testing for subclinical hypothyroidism may also be recommended. Stress management and adrenal support are crucial due to their connection with the thyroid gland. Therefore, it is important not to over stimulate the thyroid when trying to regulate hormone production. The thyroid and adrenal glands are closely linked and usually behave in an inversely proportional relationship to each other. As a result, over stimulation of the thyroid can ultimately lead to adrenal insufficiency. In fact, it is often crucial to focus on adrenal support before treating the thyroid so that the adrenals can handle the treatment. Adrenal support is accomplished by a low stress diet (online or in person), therapeutic supplementation and lifestyle management.

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References

Page L. Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone Eleventh Edition. Traditional Wisdom, Inc; 2000.

Isaac S. Hormonal Balance: Understanding Hormones, Weight, and Your Metabolism. Boulder: Bull Bublishing Company; 2007: 185.

Rister S. Healing Without Medication. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc; 2003: 345-346.

Shames RL, MD, PhD, Karilee HS, RN, PhD. Thyroid Power: 10 Steps to Total Health. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.; 2002.

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